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J Neurophysiol. 1990 Jan;63(1):82-104.

Functional reorganization of primary somatosensory cortex in adult owl monkeys after behaviorally controlled tactile stimulation.

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Coleman Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0732.


1. Multiple microelectrode maps of the hand representation within and across the borders of cortical area 3b were obtained before, immediately after, or several weeks after a period of behaviorally controlled hand use. Owl monkeys were conditioned in a task that produced cutaneous stimulation of a limited sector of skin on the distal phalanges of one or more fingers. 2. Analysis of microelectrode mapping experiment data revealed that 1) stimulated skin surfaces were represented over expanded cortical areas. 2) Most of the cutaneous receptive fields recorded within these expanded cortical representational zones were unusually small. 3) The internal topography of representation of the stimulated and immediately surrounding skin surfaces differed greatly from that recorded in control experiments. Representational discontinuities emerged in this map region, and "hypercolumn" distances in this map sector were grossly abnormal. 4) Borders between the representations of individual digits and digit segments commonly shifted. 5) The functionally defined rostral border of area 3b shifted farther rostralward, manifesting either an expansion of the cutaneous area 3b fingertip representation into cortical field 3a or an emergence of a cutaneous input zone in the caudal aspect of this normally predominantly deep-receptor representational field. 6) Significant lateralward translocations of the borders between the representations of the hand and face were recorded in all cases. 7) The absolute locations--and in some cases the areas or magnifications--of representations of many skin surfaces not directly involved in the trained behavior also changed significantly. However, the most striking areal, positional, and topographic changes were related to the representations of the behaviorally stimulated skin in every studied monkey. 3. These experiments demonstrate that functional cortical remodeling of the S1 koniocortical field, area 3b, results from behavioral manipulations in normal adult owl monkeys. We hypothesize that these studies manifest operation of the basic adaptive cortical process(es) underlying cortical contributions to perception and learning.

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